Back In The Fold


It was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement when John invited me back earlier this year to the good ship Freewheelin’. It had been about three years since I’d stepped aside for various reasons so I had lost touch on what direction Freewheelin' had taken if any and how the land lay in terms of what was happening. 

During that period I had maintained my decision to be very selective on what I acquired Bob-wise. Of course I maintained an interest in him, but I had shifted away from collecting all those endless tired performances that I had been stockpiling to only play once. My decision some years ago was to find about six above average shows that could represent the year and be happy with that. Naturally the need to keep up with the odd gems from the past as and when they appeared stayed the same, but I can live without all those shows. But I was slowing down and moving onto other things musical. 

The books still interest me and always will. So I keep up with them and, yes, like the others, I have been daft enough to buy the same thing in different covers too if I can afford it so I still allow that perverse habit to continue. 

In the years I had gone away, Freewheelin' had done its public duty so I sort of missed out on that era. But talking to John left me with a feeling that it hadn’t been plain sailing.  A bit like my involvement in Merseyside Dylan. I started that up in 1982 and had many happy years with it in terms of some genuinely wonderful people who came through our door, some who became true friends. But sadly things fell apart a few years ago. Following Dylan's visit to Liverpool in 1996, the ranks of Merseyside Dylan swelled dramatically with not always nice results. A swarm of new Johnny Come Latelies really had a marked effect to the point that whereas it had been a real warm and together group socially, now there were different factions within the group that left me and some others feeling that things were never going to be the same again. I had organised some memorable events over the years for the group but by last year I had frankly had enough of the whole thing to the point that I had not bothered to attend one monthly meeting since 2002. I probably never will again either. 

So in some ways it is reassuring that Freewheelin' seems to have come through stormy seas too but ended up still intact, albeit with a few new faces. Things from here look like they are stable. The format of it seems almost identical, the covers, Mark’s cartoons, and reviews of the press, John writing endless reams: it’s like I never left. 

What I find interesting is that people seem more willing to share things about the other music they listen to and that I find refreshing. We can get too bogged down in the Dylan field and I see that Chris C. has referred to a decision he’s made to explore “more of the other” which is healthy. 

One thing I do notice is that no one makes any real reference to what others have written about or said. It’s as if there is a wall of silence to comment on what we have presented to each other. Does any one else feel the same or am I imagining it? What I should be doing  here is commenting myself but I will leave that to another time. But I will say that I have enjoyed some real good stuff you have written, especially those of you who I have never met like Paula and Robert since I went away so I gain a picture of what you strangers are like from what you have contributed. And I always enjoy reading C.P.’s stuff. (If you’re ever across in Liverpool again give me a call. I know from the previous times we’ve met that you like a pint too!). 

So what I am saying is that it is reassuring that some things haven’t radically changed and it’s nice to find that sometimes. I’ve enjoyed reading all your contributions. Likewise I hope that you’ve found something of interest from what I have done too. And long may it continue.